Couple leaves lasting legacy to Wayland in form of scholarship

Ralph and Elizabeth Shannon never attended Wayland Baptist University. But their strong belief in Christian education led them to leave a gift that will benefit students at Wayland for years to come.

The Shannons left $206,000 to Wayland in their estate with the intention of creating an endowed scholarship. When Mr. Shannon died in February 2001, the scholarship was officially formed. Mrs. Shannon died in November of 1996.

The Shannon scholarship is for any student with financial need, good citizenship and a grade point average of at least 2.0. Special consideration is given to students who are studying for the ministry.

A native of Clarendon, Ralph Shannon graduated from Clarendon High School and continued his education at Panhandle A&M University in Goodwell, Okla. He began farming in 1938 in the Cousins community near Plainview.

In 1939, Ralph married Elizabeth Keniston, a native of Illinois who had lived in the Bellevue community near Plainview for many years. In 1948, the couple moved their farm to Halfway, where they farmed until retirement in 1980. As Halfway residents, the Shannons were devoted to the community and to the First Baptist Church of Halfway, where Elizabeth was church organist for 20 years and Ralph was a trustee until his death.

Though the Shannons never had children, they often encouraged young family members or children of friends to pursue higher education. Upon retiring, they agreed to establish a scholarship at Wayland to help make that goal possible for students.

"Ralph and Elizabeth loved students and they loved Wayland Baptist University," said Dr. Russ Gibbs, vice president for institutional advancement at Wayland. "Their desire to establish a scholarship to help deserving students is a lasting tribute to their generosity and a fitting testimony of their love for God and desire to make a difference in the world. Wayland is very grateful for their thoughtful estate planning."

An endowed scholarship is created when funds totaling at least $25,000 are accumulated and invested through the Texas Baptist Foundation. The interest from the fund is removed each year and awarded to a student according to the criteria the donors have established.

Gordon Benson, Ralph Shannon's pastor for the last few years of his life, spoke highly of his character.

"Ralph was a down-to-earth person and loved people. He was very supportive of his church, his family and the community. He was definitely one who gave of himself," Benson said. "He always wanted everyone to get the best education and to better themselves. He wanted to do what he could and felt this was how he could make the best use of their money."